By CHRIS EASTERLING
Independent sports editor
SUGAR CREEK TWP. Fairless was ready to party like it was the 1990s again Friday night at Brideweser Stadium.
The Falcons came into the night with a chance to do something they hadn’t done since 1996, which was to beat their archrival from Tuslaw. And if they did that, they were assured to get to do something they hadn’t done since 1999, which was qualify for the playoffs.
It took all of three plays — after an opening-kickoff fumble by Tuslaw — for the party to get started for Fairless. And it never really let up from there, as the Falcons released plenty of pent-up frustrations in rolling to a 63-27 win over the Mustangs.
“This is the coolest thing I’ve ever been through,” said Fairless junior running back Jeremy Mahaffey, who finished with a game-high 202 rushing yards and four touchdowns. “This is the biggest thing we have ever done. I’m glad to be a part of it.”
VIDEO: Tuslaw-Fairless on "Game Night"
The win gives Fairless its best regular-season record since that 1999 playoff team, at 7-3. And like that 1999 team, the Falcons are on their way to the postseason, with exact first-round opponent to be set Sunday by the Ohio High School Athletic Association.
So in a year where Fairless was able to end its lengthy losing streaks to rivals Manchester and Tuslaw, the next step is to get that elusive first playoff win.
One of the Falcons that keyed Friday’s rout was all of 6-months-old the last time Fairless was in possession of the Blue Cup. But junior running back Jeremy Mahaffey had himself quite a night in bringing that streak to an end.
Mahaffey rushed for 191 on 16 carries and four touchdowns, while also coming up with an interception — all in the first half as the Falcons pushed open a 42-14 lead.
“Knowing that I could come back and beat them, it’s a really big thing,” Mahaffey said. “All these parents out here know how it feels to beat them. Now, we know how it feels to beat them.”
Fairless’ offense was efficient in blowing the game open early. The Falcons scored on their first six possessions — three gained through Tuslaw turnovers — with Mahaffey scoring on runs of 4, 4, 69 and 2, while Hunter Wells hooked up with Zack Kelly on a pair of touchdown passes.
The Falcons, who added three touchdown passes in the second half from Wells, finished with 522 total offensive yards. Wells threw for 304 yards in what may likely be his final home game.
“We were able to capitalize on some mistakes they made early,” Fairless coach Don Wilson said. “Then our offense just kind of overwhelmed them. Defensively, we gave up a couple of plays. They had one time where they thought like they were going to make a game of it.”
The Falcons’ two biggest plays of the first half were scores that took away any momentum the Mustangs may have gained from their two touchdowns.
Harley Snyder hit Graham Miller for a 93-yard touchdown Mustang pass to make cut the deficit to 14-7 with 6:07 left in the first quarter. But Kelly picked up a 44-yard catch-and-run score to make it a two-touchdown margin just six plays later.
Mason Karn’s scoring run for Tuslaw — set up by a 63-yard catch by his brother Matt — with 1:12 left in the quarter cut it to 21-14. Mahaffey then took off on his 69-yard touchdown run on the first Fairless play after the Mustangs’ touchdown.
Tuslaw was plagued throughout the nightmarish first half by turnovers, giving the ball up four times. The Mustangs fumbled at their own 25 and 29, while throwing interceptions at their own 34 and 43.
“We definitely had some turnovers,” said Tuslaw coach Nate Held, whose team turned the ball over five times in finishing 2-8. “When you play good teams, you can’t have those type of turnovers. They capitalized on them.”